Managing the detrimental effects of indospicine through rumen metabolism

The aim of this project is to deliver a rumen inoculum to mitigate the detrimental effects of the plant toxin indospicine on cattle to benefit the beef industry and our market reputation in Queensland.

Indospicine is a non-proteinogenic amino acid, present in the native pasture legume Indigofera linnaei, which accumulates in all tissues of livestock grazing this plant. Indospicine accumulation causes liver degeneration (with associated loss of appetite and weight loss) and abortive effects in livestock.

Indigofera linnaei is widespread in Queensland rangelands, highly-palatable and a possible contributor to the known high incidence of cattle reproductive losses in these regions. Indospicine accumulation in the meat tissues of livestock has the potential to impact on the health of the consumer (both human and animal). Indospicine-contaminated meat from both horses and camels, for example, has resulted in multiple dog deaths with literature reports detailing these incidents.

Preliminary trials have demonstrated that the degradation of indospicine can occur with rumen-fluid fermentation. This project will investigate this degradation, to identify responsible ruminal microbes and develop an inoculum which would enable indospicine to be metabolised in the rumen avoiding the uptake and subsequent health impacts in livestock, and also the presence of residues in meat.

When: 1 May 2016 to 30 April 2019

Where: Ecosciences Precinct, Dutton Park, Queensland

Contact: Diane Ouwerkerk and Mary Fletcher

Collaborators: Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation

RD & E objectives: Enterprise viability: Increasing cost efficiency and productivity and profitability, Enterprise sustainability: Increasing natural resource use efficiency and managed environmental impacts

Industry priorities: Nutrition and growth, Animal welfare, Reproduction